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Photos from B.C.’s Leaking Methane Gas Wells Confirm Need for Stronger Regulations

December 19, 2018 Work Area: Methane


VANCOUVER — Images taken with high-tech equipment of leaking methane pollution from gas wells in Montney Basin in northeast British Columbia show the need for stronger regulations for the oil and gas industry.  B.C. plans to finalize methane regulations in 2019.

In December, the non-profit organization Earthworks and the Pembina Institute used optical gas imaging cameras to document methane leaking from polluting gas wells and other facilities. Methane is a greenhouse gas that traps 84 times as much heat as carbon dioxide. It is invisible to the human eye but responsible for 25 per cent of already observed changes to Earth’s climate, according to scientists.

“These images are strong visual statements about the damage leaking methane is having on our climate and on people’s health,” Earthworks certified optical gas imaging thermographer Pete Dronkers said.

The images of leaking methane come in the wake of the David Suzuki Foundation’s peer-reviewed research showing methane pollution from B.C.’s oil and gas industry is much higher than reported. About 47 per cent of active oil and gas wells in the study area were found to emit methane-rich plumes.

“Oil and gas operations, including those that will supply future LNG projects, release methane pollution into the atmosphere through intentional venting and unintentional leaks. B.C.’s draft regulations do not address the full scale of the province’s methane pollution problem,” Pembina Institute analyst Jan Gorski said.

To be credible and on par with other jurisdictions, the regulations under development should include more frequent site inspections of oil and gas operations and stronger policies to address intentional methane venting.

“With the release of the CleanBC climate plan this month, the government re-energized its global leadership on climate change.  We trust that B.C. will apply that same ambition and strengthen the draft methane pollution framework to ensure industry is a responsible partner in the province’s climate plan,” David Suzuki Foundation science and policy director Ian Bruce said.

Although there are strong elements to reduce reported and vented emissions, the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission’s draft regulatory framework would exempt 93 per cent of sites from frequent leak detection and repair and 35 per cent of sites from modern instrument-based inspection.

“In U.S. states where stricter methane regulations are in place, industry is thriving. B.C. needs to bring its industry up to par with North American best practices,” Clean Air Task Force senior climate policy advisor Jonathan Banks said. “B.C. cannot afford to overlook these harmful emissions if the province wants to meet its legislated climate targets, especially considering how cheap and easy it is to solve this problem. Inspections based on looking for and smelling an invisible, odourless gas just don’t cut it.”

Video of methane gas leaking from gas wells:

Read more background here.

Earthworks is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the adverse impacts of mineral and energy development while promoting sustainable solutions. Through its Community Empowerment Project, Earthworks works with communities to protect their health and the climate by making visible normally invisible air pollution from oil and gas facilities.

The David Suzuki Foundation is a leading Canadian environmental non-profit organization that collaborates with people in Canada, including government and businesses, to conserve the environment and find solutions that will create a sustainable Canada through evidence-based research, public engagement and policy work. It operates in English and French, with offices in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

The Pembina Institute is a national non-partisan think tank that advocates for strong, effective policies to support Canada’s clean energy transition. It employs multifaceted and highly collaborative approaches to change. Producing credible, evidence-based research and analysis, it consults directly with organizations to design and implement clean energy solutions, and convenes diverse sets of stakeholders to identify and move toward common solutions.

Clean Air Task Force is a non-profit environmental organization with offices across the U.S. It works to help safeguard against the worst impacts of climate change by catalyzing the rapid global development and deployment of low-carbon energy and other climate-protecting technologies through research and analysis, public advocacy leadership and partnership with the private sector.

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